Thursday, July 18, 2013

Another family recipe ~ "Bessie's Mix"

From Life Magazine, June 1952
Kitchen gifts were somewhat of a tradition in my family as I was growing up.  My mother made pans and pans of her maple fudge, but she also made lots of Christmas cookies,  and loaves of cinnamon swirled bread which she topped with a thin white icing plus sliced almonds and a few candied cherries.  Although I don't recall my grandmother giving kitchen gifts in my childhood, in later years she made homemade hot cocoa mix by the jar to give to her married children and grandchildren.  And she, too, made fudge -- I believe it was the traditional five minute fudge only using some butterscotch chips in addition to the chocolate ones.  But one of the favorite, favorite gifts our family received each year was a gift-wrap or contact-paper covered coffee can filled with what we called "Bessie's Mix."  My great-aunt made batches of Chex party mix every year and packaged it in the festively covered cans for gift-giving.

A few years ago, I made Christmas memory books for my married kids and my parents, and ended up making a couple for other relatives as well.  At the time I did a bit of research to try and find the recipe Bessie would have used.  It's somewhat different from the Chex Mix of today.  I seem to
recall that there were short, thin pretzel sticks in it, peanuts, and Cheerios.  I definitely remember fighting with my siblings over the Cheerios.  These seemed to absorb the butter and seasonings better than anything else, and were really tasty.  But I never did find the recipe I thought she had used. 

So I cobbled together a few 1950s recipes I found on line and came up with this:
2 cups Corn Chex
2 cups Rice Chex
2 cups Wheat Chex
2 cups Cheerios
2 cups thin short pretzel sticks
3/4 cup salted peanuts
1/2 cup melted butter
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
 Preheat oven to 250°. Mix cereals, pretzels and peanuts together in a large bowl.  Combine the melted butter and seasonings; pour over cereal mixture and toss all together to mix very well.  Spread cereal mixture on a baking sheet or in a 13x9-inch pan.  Bake mixture for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Spread mix on paper towels to cool before serving or packaging.

 Transfer mix to Contact˙-paper-covered cans with lids -- like coffee cans or peanut cans.  Give a tin of mix to everyone on your Christmas list.

In preparation for this post, I tried doing a bit more research.  This time I located the original 1952 recipe, the one that goes with the picture above.  Here it is:

Wonderful nibbling
at snack-time!

Try this new PARTY MIX

Add 1/2 c. butter in shallow baking pan. Stir in 1 T. Worcestershire sauce. Add 2 c. Wheat Chex, 2 c. Rice Chex, and 1/2 c. nuts. Sprinkle with 1/4 t. salt and 1/8 t. garlic salt; mix well. Heat 30 mins in 300 degree oven, stirring every 10 minutes. Cool.

Note that it contains no Corn Chex, which hadn't yet been invented in 1952.  But I am pretty sure that the recipe my aunt made did contain corn chex. 

And I also found this recipe: Real Original Chex Party Mix.

Really, there are endless variations of this mix (and families have their own traditional names for it like Scrabble, or Nuts and Bolts) -- but the bottom line is that a tin of mix still makes a wonderful gift to share with a family!


  1. Party mixes are always a win!
    Thanks for the recipe.

  2. You are welcome, Lucie! Hope you enjoy the recipe if you try it!

  3. Yes, that's the one I remember! I really like the pretzel sticks, but most of all the nuts and Cheerios. Knowing my mother, she probably sprinkled on a bit of garlic powder and onion powder. Do you think the seasoned salt was something like Lawry's?

  4. Almost certainly it was Lawry's. That's what my grandmother always used, so her sister (my great-aunt) would have likely done the same.


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